UK General Election 2017: what happens now?
At around 10.00 today my twitter timeline became alive as announcements were made that Theresa May was due to make an announcement at 11.15. There was much speculation. Rumours that she would announce war on North Korea, direct rule in Northern Ireland, pulling out of Eurovision and the resignation of Arsene Wenger amongst others. Laughably, some suggested that May would announce a snap election despite all her previous pronouncements.
There then followed cries of: “What about the fixed term parliament act”? Shortly followed by Labour, SNP and Lib Dems all “welcoming” the election call. So that’s the FTPA sorted then.
But what happens next?
Some say that Theresa May is calling an early election so that she can deliver a softer brexit without having to concern herself with her own hard-liners. I find this difficult to believe. It depends I suppose what you mean by a hard brexit but she has committed herself to leaving the Single Market and therefore any chance of Freedom of Movement. It is possible of course that she does a u-turn on this as she has done over an early election but I doubt it. I believe that she believes that a stronger mandate domestically will also strengthen her hand in negotiations, something that experts on Europe are dismissing. Whatever, we need to force her to commit to confirming or denying that our negotiations take us out of the single market and the customs union.
There are many calls for a progressive, anti-brexit alliance. Unfortunately Labour have ruled themselves out of such an alliance by 1) stating that they would make brexit work for the British people (whatever that means) and 2) their utter contempt for other parties. The current leader and his entourage can barely work with other members of the Labour party so it is hardly surprising that they won’t work with others. What I want from Labour is to not only to state what they want but how they are going to go about and get it. Jeremy Corbyn has said that he has spoken with socialist parties across Europe. What are the results of these talks? Are there any strategies in place? Many of their other policies, far from being hard left, are radical and can be seen in other progressive parties. If Labour could declare to be anti-brexit and work with others, I believe we could defeat the Tories. I also don’t think it can happen.
The Lib-Dems were very quick out of the blocks. If you want to remain, vote Lib Dem. I would firstly point out that we are still operating in a first passed the post electoral system. It is the number of seats that count. I also saw a tweet suggesting that to say that you can’t vote Lib- Dem because of the coalition is a “dumb argument” is really not helpful. Many are disgusted at the betrayal of the Lib-Dems (I had expected a Lab/Lib Dem coalition) over tuition fees and benefit cuts and these take time to heal. Many will need persuading and the way for the Lib Dems to do this is to be totally clear what they stand for. If they gained an overall majority (bear with me on this..) would they stick to a second referendum call or will they be bold and stand on reversing article 50? I think the latter should be their starting point. But they also need to state what they would do if in a position of being in a coalition again. I would expect them to state that they will not work with anyone for less than an EEA agreement. And I expect them to stand aside if a Green candidate had a better chance of success.
Because this is going to be a tactical election. If we want to stop Brexit, or even want to remain in the EEA (which many brexiteers wanted) we are going to have to defeat the Tories. If we are to have any hope of doing this we must be tactical and demand clarity from the parties. We need to state clearly what we expect from the EU and the positives it has achieved. We need to not pander to racism and xenophobia but to present and agree on policies that address the insecurity and anxiety of many people.
I know I am tired and many others will be too. Many of us have spent the last 11 months saying “we warned you about that…” But now is our chance, however slim, to do something about this. We need a high turn out, high voter registration-particularly amongst the young- clarity and clever tactics.